The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


No Geoghan pact yet, lawyer says

By Michael Rezendes and Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff, 9/5/2002

The lawyer for 86 alleged victims of convicted pedophile John J. Geoghan yesterday confirmed that his clients are considering a $10 million dollar settlement with the Boston archdiocese but disputed an assertion by Cardinal Bernard F. Law's personal attorney that a deal is all but finalized.

''There is an offer of $10 million. There has been no acceptance. To call it tentative would be inaccurate,'' said Mitchell Garabedian. ''Many of my clients have not yet signed.''

But Garabedian also said that his clients are eager to settle the lawsuits they have filed, even though the latest offer from the church is about half the amount it initially agreed to pay, and then rejected in May. ''People want closure; that's the main theme,'' Garabedian said. ''The amount of trauma here is just too much for these individuals.''

On Tuesday, J. Owen Todd, Law's personal attorney, confirmed to the Globe and other news organizations that the church and Garabedian had reached a tentative settlement of $10 million. A lawyer involved in the discussions between both sides had said Garabedian told archdiocese lawyers that he had the assent of all 86 plaintiffs.

Yesterday Todd backed away from his statement. ''We're all in a position on our side where we're all embarrassed; at least I am,'' Todd said. ''If Mitch wants to take the position that he's still in process and doesn't have it done, I think I should honor that.''

Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said he believes the church and Garabedian are close to finalizing an agreement but said it was ''premature'' to declare a tentative settlement. ''Both sides had agreed there would be no announcement until there was a settlement,'' Coyne said. ''We're getting to the point where all we have to do is cross the T's and dot the I's.''

Garabedian would not say how many clients have approved the settlement but noted that if even one of the 86 refuses to sign there will be no agreement. He also said that in the last three weeks a new factor has emerged: a demand by some clients that they be permitted to describe in open court the abuse they say they suffered and its effect on their lives.

''We're trying to set up guidelines for that and if there are not satisfactory guidelines there will be no deal,'' Garabedian said, adding that church negotiators have objected to the proposal.

Church negotiators led by attorney Wilson D. Rogers Jr. have sharply reduced an earlier offer to pay the 86 alleged victims up to $30 million. Under that plan, the specific amounts paid to each individual were to have been determined by a mediator.

The offer, trumpeted by the church in March, was pulled back in May after the archdiocesan Finance Council said the payout would not leave enough money to settle additional clergy sexual abuse claims without compromising church operations. Lawyers representing alleged victims estimate that more than 300 additional claims of clergy abuse have been made since the scandal surrounding sexual misconduct in the church erupted in January.

After the church pulled back its initial offer, Garabedian argued in superior court that it constituted a legally binding contract that should be enforced by the court. The church disagreed and both sides are now waiting for Judge Constance M. Sweeney to decide the matter.

But Garabedian said yesterday that even if Sweeney rules in his favor, he and his clients could face an additional four to five years of appeals, a prospect that has led them to consider the church's latest, reduced settlement offer.

Garabedian said church officials have told him that the archdiocesan Finance Council has approved the $10 million offer.

Walter V. Robinson of the Globe Staff contributed to this story. Michael Rezendes can be reached at Stephen Kurkjian can be reached at

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 9/5/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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